– Hi, I’m Bishop Brian. I want to speak to you today, an update related to COVID, particular, the delta variant. I know in the spring, as many of us had access to the COVID-19 vaccine, there was a great sense of joy, of possibility, of progress as numbers went down, as people thought about a return to post-COVID life. Our parishes have experienced that. You and I have experienced that, as well. But we now know for the last few weeks here in Tennessee, we are seeing a huge upsurge in the number of COVID cases related to the delta variant. So I want to speak to you today about bringing back our masks.
I am grateful for our Episcopal schools across the Diocese of East Tennessee. All of our schools are going with full masking indoors, taking very careful precautions guided by the CDC. I applaud and affirm the good work of our Episcopal schools right now. They’re focusing on keeping kids safe, faculty, staff, students, visitors to campus, to keeping them safe. They should be applauded for that work, and I’m grateful for them, but strongly encourage in our parishes as we gather in doors to be masked, knowing that we have people that still can not be vaccinated. We have children that have not yet had access to the vaccine. We want to do everything we can to limit spread to allow us to be able to gather safely in-person because there is so much to be said to be in person.
Here at our diocesan house, all of our staff, we are all vaccinated, but we have now returned to masking, to limiting interaction indoors, just to keep us safe, and folks who come to this building, to keep them safe. Also, just aware right now that that there’s an emotion that maybe many of us are feeling, maybe you’re feeling around anger about the progress we have made as a community, as a country and now to see some of these setbacks, realizing in the state of Tennessee, we are quite low on the percentage of vaccination rates and quite high right now on hospitalization and caseload. Would encourage you to acknowledge that you’re angry but to not allow that anger either to be turned inwards or outwards in ways that’s destructive. This is a good time to remember our work early in the pandemic on the four M’s for mental health, mindfulness, movement, meaningful connection, and mastery. This is a time to continue to practice those and to continue to practice deep places for prayer, to allow your lament, to allow your anger, to give that up to God and to continue to turn towards each other, both friend, neighbor, and stranger, and see in their face, the face of the Christ, whether they are masked or not, to see them as the Christ.
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you to our Episcopal schools and the good work they’re doing to keep our kids safe. They are doing those practices because they care about kids, and we care about kids as Episcopalians. So continue to persevere in this time, to treat this coming season of an opening to school year and a more robust church year to know that God continues to work in our midst in our communities and in our churches. So mask up. Get vaccinated. If you feel in any way sick, please stay home. We’re in this together. We want to continue to be the people of God in East Tennessee now. Thank you.